Spain, Apr 29 (AP/UNB) — The party that had dominated conservative politics for decades in Spain suffered an unprecedented debacle in national elections Sunday, with the eruption of an ultra-nationalist party causing a seismic shift in the nation's political right.
The Popular Party lost more than half its support from elections just three years earlier as disenchanted voters flocked to conservative rivals outflanking it on both the left and right. Provisional results gave it 66 seats, which was its worst result since it participated in its first national elections in 1989 and was less than half the 137 it won in 2016.
"I am not one to elude responsibilities, the results are very bad," Popular Party leader Pablo Casado told a dejected crowd at his party's headquarters in Madrid. "I only have to say that we are going to start working right now to recover this support and to do so leading the center-right. We had sent warnings out that fragmenting the vote would not be a winning option."
The Socialist Party of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez replaced the Popular Party as the biggest vote winner and is poised to stay in power.
But the votes that the Popular Party lost went to its closest ideological competitors.
The far-right Vox party will enter the lower house of the Parliament by winning 24 seats. It ran as the defender of Spanish traditions such as bull-fighting and railed against illegal immigration and the women's rights movement.
The center-right Citizens party, which was participating in its third national election, also improved its share of seats to 57 seats and can aspire to soon overtake the Popular Party. Citizens persuaded some Popular Party members to leave the party and join its ranks during the campaign, including the former president of the Madrid region.
The undisputed loser of the night was Casado. The 38-year-old politician was elected party leader in July to replace former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who retired from public life after he lost a no-confidence vote in Parliament following a court ruling that implicated several former Popular Party members in a corruption ring.
Casado had promised to clean up his party, but he flopped in his first major electoral test.
Vox and Citizens both stole away what had been the banner cause of the Popular Party: the fight against Catalonia's separatists.
Vox leader Santiago Abascal blasted the Popular Party for not wielding a tougher hand with the secessionists, which held an unauthorized referendum on independence in 2017 that Rajoy was unable to stop. Abascal left the Popular Party and took charge of Vox in 2014. He called his former party "the cowardly right" throughout the campaign.
After announcing a "reconquering of Spain" to a thrilled crowd in downtown Madrid late Sunday, Abascal turned up his attacks on the Popular Party.
"I want to send a warning to (the Popular Party), which is already trying to blame us for their failings, for their acts of treason and their fears," Abascal said. "You are the only ones responsible for not being able to stand up to the left."
Spanish voters will return to the polls next month for European, municipal and regional elections.
Seattle, Apr 28 (AP/UNB) — A construction crane fell from a building on Google's new Seattle campus during a storm that brought wind gusts, crashing down onto one of the city's busiest streets and killing four people.
One female and three males had died by the time firefighters had arrived Saturday afternoon, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said. Two of the dead were ironworkers who had been inside the crane while the other two were people who were inside cars, Fire Department spokesman Lance Garland said.
A 25-year-old mother and her 4-month-old daughter were in a car that was smashed by the crane on its passenger side, and both managed to escape with only minor injuries, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said, calling it a miracle. They and a 28-year-old man were taken to Harborview Medical Center. A fourth person also was injured and treated at the scene.
The crane collapsed near the often-congested intersection of Mercer and Fairview Avenue just north of downtown in the South Lake Union neighborhood shortly before 3:30 p.m., Scoggins said.
The deadly collapse is sure to bring scrutiny about the safety of the dozens of cranes that dot the city's skyscape. With Amazon, Google and other tech companies increasing their hiring in Seattle, the city has more cranes building office towers and apartment buildings than any other in the United States. As of January, there were about 60 construction cranes in Seattle.
Durkan said the city had a good track record with crane safety but that officials would conduct a review. "It's a horrible day in Seattle when something like this happens. But it's a time when we come together because Seattle is a city that rallies around each other," she said.
Officials do not yet know the cause of the collapse. Police and the state Department of Labor and Industries were investigating, which Durkan said could take months.
Daren Konopaski, the business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302, which represents heavy-equipment operators, told The Seattle Times he understood the crane was being dismantled when high winds moved through the area.
"We don't know, but that's what seems to have happened here," he said. "We are in the process of trying to get information."
Durkan confirmed that people were actively working on top of the building Saturday, but she didn't say whether the crane was being dismantled.
A line of showers moved over Seattle just about the time the crane fell, the National Weather Service said. An observation station on nearby Lake Union showed winds kicked up with gusts of up to 23 mph at 3:28 p.m., just about the time the crane fell.
"It was terrifying," witness Esther Nelson, a biotech researcher who was working in a building nearby, told the Times.
"The wind was blowing really strong," she said, and added that the crane appeared to break in half. "Half of it was flying down sideways on the building," she said. "The other half fell down on the street, crossing both lanes of traffic."
The office building the crane fell from was badly damaged, with several of its windows smashed.
A Google spokesperson said in a statement that the company was saddened to learn of the accident and that they were in communication with Vulcan, the real estate firm that is managing the site and working with authorities.
Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg said Saturday night that the mother and baby had been discharged, while the man injured was in satisfactory condition.
The King County Medical Examiner's Office said it would not release names of people who died until Monday.
A crane collapsed in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue in 2006, damaging three neighboring buildings and killing a Microsoft attorney who was sitting in his living room. The state Department of Labor and Industries cited two companies for workplace-safety violations after an investigation that found a flawed design for the crane's base.
"Trudi and I join all Washingtonians in extending our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the four people who died in this afternoon's tragic accident," Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. Inslee also said he hoped for a speedy and full recovery for those injured, thanked first responders and urged people to stay clear of the accident scene.
New Zealand, Apr 26 (AP/UNB) — Britain's Prince William on Friday visited a mosque where a white supremacist shot dozens of people last month and said the gunman had failed in his mission to sow division and hatred.
The Duke of Cambridge was visiting the first of two mosques where 50 people were killed and 50 others wounded in the March 15 attack. He plans to visit the second mosque later on Friday.
William spoke to about 100 people at the Al Noor mosque, including survivors of the shootings, Muslim leaders and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The prince said the mosque stood for the principles of togetherness and selflessness, which the terrorist had tried to challenge.
"He thought he could redefine what this place was," William said. "I'm here to help you show the world that he failed."
The prince said he'd been visiting New Zealand since before he could walk, and he'd always been impressed by the way New Zealanders looked out to the world with optimism.
"I could not believe the news that I was hearing on the 15th of March, in a country that seemed to be bucking the global trends of division and anger," William said.
But New Zealand didn't fall victim to fear and distrust as the terrorist wanted, William said.
"New Zealanders had other plans. The people of Al Noor and Linwood mosques had other plans," he said. "In a moment of acute pain, you stood up, and you stood together."
William did not name the accused gunman, a practice Ardern and others have followed as a way to deny him notoriety.
William is on a two-day trip to New Zealand. Earlier on Friday, he met with some of those recovering from gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital.
On Thursday, he met with police officers and medics who responded to the attacks. He also attended a service in Auckland to commemorate soldiers killed during World War I.
Vladivostok, Apr 25 (AP/UNB) — Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down for talks Thursday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying the summit should help plan joint efforts to resolve a standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear program.
Speaking at the start of the talks at a university on the Russky Island across a bridge from Vladivostok, Putin voiced confidence that Kim's visit will "help better understand what should be done to settle the situation on the Korean Peninsula, what we can do together, what Russia can do to support the positive processes going on now."
Kim's first trip to Russia comes about two months after his second summit with President Donald Trump failed because of disputes over U.S.-led sanctions on the North. Putin meanwhile wants to expand Russia's clout in the region and get more leverage with Washington.
"We welcome your efforts to develop an inter-Korean dialogue and normalize North Korea's relations with the United States," Putin told Kim.
For his part, Kim noted that with the world's attention now concentrated on the Korean Peninsula, "I think we will have a very meaningful dialogue on sharing our opinions on this matter while also jointly apprising and studying it."
He also congratulated the Russian leader on his reelection to another six-year term last year.
In February, Trump-Kim talks ended without any agreement because of disputes over U.S.-led sanctions. There have since been no publicly known high-level contacts between the U.S. and North Korea, although both sides say they are still open to a third summit.
Kim wants the U.S. to ease the sanctions to reciprocate for some partial disarmament steps he took last year. But the U.S. maintains the sanctions will stay in place until North Korea makes more significant denuclearization moves.
North Korea has increasingly expressed frustration at the deadlocked negotiations. Last week, it tested a new weapon and demanded that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from the nuclear talks.
Kim arrived in Vladivostok Wednesday aboard an armored train, telling Russian state television that he was hoping that his first visit to Russia would "successful and useful." He evoked his father's "great love for Russia" and said that he intends to strengthen ties between the two countries. The late Kim Jong Il made three trips to Russia, last time in 2011.
Like the U.S., Russia has strongly opposed Pyongyang's nuclear bid. Putin has welcomed Trump's meetings with Kim, but urged the U.S. to do more to assuage Pyongyang's security concerns.
Speaking before the talks, Putin's foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said that Russia will seek to "consolidate the positive trends" stemming from Trump-Kim meetings. He noted that the Kremlin would try to help "create preconditions and a favorable atmosphere for reaching solid agreements on the problem of the Korean Peninsula."
Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said that Putin will likely encourage Kim to continue constructive talks with the U.S., reflecting Russia's own worry about the North nuclear and missile programs. "Russia can't be expected to side with North Korea and, let's say, support the North Koreans all the way in the Security Council where Russia is a veto wielding member and where all sanctions imposed on North Korea require Russia's approval," he said.
Trenin emphasized that Moscow is skeptical that the North could be persuaded to fully abandon its nuclear weapons, considering it a "mission impossible."
"North Korea will not give up the only guarantee of the survival of the North Korean state and its regime," Trenin said.
Russia would also like to gain broader access to North Korea's mineral resources, including rare metals. Pyongyang, for its part, covets Russia's electricity supplies and investment to modernize its dilapidated Soviet-built industrial plants, railways and other infrastructure.
Vladivostok, a city of more than half a million on the Sea of Japan, faced gridlock on its roads as traffic was blocked in the city center due to Kim's visit. The authorities have temporarily closed the waters around Russky Island to all maritime traffic.
Wellington, Apr 24 (AP/UNB) — New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Wednesday that she and French President Emmanuel Macron will host a meeting in Paris next month seeking to eliminate acts of violent extremism and terrorism from being shown online.
Ardern said she and Macron will ask world leaders and chief executives of technology companies to agree to a pledge called the "Christchurch Call," named after the New Zealand city where an attack took place last month.
Ardern didn't release any details of the pledge, saying they were still being developed.
She said she'd been talking with representatives from companies including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google along with world leaders and felt they could reach consensus by keeping the pledge tightly focused.
"This isn't about freedom of speech," Ardern said. "It's specifically focused on eradicating those extreme acts of terrorism online."
The man accused of murdering 50 people in two Christchurch mosques on March 15 livestreamed the attack on Facebook after mounting a camera on his helmet. The chilling 17-minute video was copied and viewed widely on the internet even as tech companies scrambled to remove it.
Ardern said the shooter had used social media in an unprecedented way to promote an act of terrorism and hate. She said nobody would argue that a terrorist had the right to livestream the murder of 50 people.
"No tech company, just like no government, wishes to see violent extremism and terrorism online," Ardern said. "And so we have a starting point that is one of unity."
In an opinion piece in the Washington Post last month, Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg called for governments and regulators to play a more active role from in policing the internet.
"As part of this, we have a responsibility to keep people safe on our services," Zuckerberg wrote. "That means deciding what counts as terrorist propaganda, hate speech and more. We continually review our policies with experts, but at our scale we'll always make mistakes and decisions that people disagree with."
In his op-ed, Zuckerberg didn't directly address problems with livestreaming, although he did say it was impossible to remove all harmful content from the internet.
Ardern said Macron had played a leadership role among the Group of Seven major economies in trying to eliminate online terrorism, and his role would complement her experience from the recent Christchurch attacks when they co-chair the May 15 meeting.